The Pidgeon Tunnel – TIFF 2023

The Pidgeon Tunnel TIFF 2023
Errol Morris uses a spy movie approach, and lots of pigeon imagery, to dramatize the final interviews with David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, but the story is not as engaging as you’d expect it to be.

The Pidgeon Tunnel – TIFF 2023

Release Date: October 20, 2023
Runtime: 01:32
Spans six decades as le Carré gives his final and most personal interview, interrupted with rare archival footage and dramatic anecdotes. It is set against the stormy Cold War backdrop that extends into the present day.

Table of Contents

Errol Morris gives the final interview to David Cornwell, a.k.a. spy novelist John le Carré, in . At one time, David Cornwell worked for the spy agencies MI5 and MI5, where he was invited to dupe other people. These experiences fueled his writing career under the pseudonym John le Carré, whose famous works included The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Perfect Spy. At the core of this final interview is David Corwell's relationship with his estranged father, Ronnie, a gambler and con artist always on the run from the mob.


The Pidgeon Tunnel Synopsis

The Pidgeon Tunnel is the latest film from Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War), which depicts the final interview with David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, before the spy novelist died in 2020. The title of The Pidgeon Tunnel is about a childhood experience David Cornwell had with his father, Ronnie, involving a shooting range and pigeons trapped in a tunnel. Morris utilizes his trademark mix of interview and dramatizations, including clips of the BBC adaptations of John le Carré's novels, as David Cornwell tells his story and how and why he entered the world of spies.

My Thoughts on The Pidgeon Tunnel

Throughout his 45-year career, Errol Morris has been known for getting into the face of his subjects with his patented Interrotron interview set-up. Throughout the years, he has tackled subjects such as the wrongfully imprisoned Randall Dale Adams in his 1988 breakthrough The Thin Blue Line, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his 2003 Oscar-winner The Fog of War, of which he made a de-facto follow-up in 2013's The Unknown Known, interviewing Donald Rumsfeld.

On paper, the story of David Cornwell, a man who rarely gave interviews, would make a fascinating addition to Errol Morris' filmography. Indeed, The Pidgeon Tunnel features the dramatized flourishes that Morris is known for, giving the film a spy movie feel with a lot of pidgeon imagery. However, Cornwell's story ends up not being as engaging as you would expect it to be.

In some ways, The Pidgeon Tunnel is more about David Cornwell's relationship with his father than himself. That said, a point is made that there was a semi-autobiographical element to his novels as John le Carré. Ultimately, The Pidgeon Tunnel is an interesting documentary, but a far cry from the films Errol Morris is best known for.

Trailer for The Pidgeon Tunnel – TIFF 2023

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.